Police Oracle today reported the story of an officer badly injured as a result of being repeatedly struck with part of his own PPE after attending an incident outside a pub in Rotherham last year.
Michael Dolan (49) felled PC Glen Hill, whilst reportedly drunk and on steroids, after the officer attended the incident single-crewed in November. PC Hill was knocked to the ground and then, whilst lying helpless, was beaten around the head approximately 30 times by Dolan, who had taken possession of the officers canister of CS spray. The officer received a deep laceration to his head and required treatment in hospital for his injuries. Dolan subsequently admitted an offence of GBH and was sentenced to 32 months in prison – meaning he will be likely to serve well under a year and a half.
The circumstances leading up to the assault are echoed throughout many counties on a daily basis and have left officers again questioning the rationale behind single-crewing policies.
Chief Superintendent for Rotherham, Jason Harwin, is quoted in the article as stating that staffing levels on the night of the incident were appropriate and described the incident as ‘regrettable’. He followed this comment by reminding everyone that ‘Policing does have its risks’.
In some respects I agree with this statement. Policing does have its risks but I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of Senior Managers like Chief Superintendent Harwin to stand up for the right of his officers to complete their duty without these kinds of ‘regrettable’ incidents. If he considers that the level of staffing is justified (taking into account the high chance of deployment to, or simply coming across, incidents of this type) then the consequences of that decision – in this case an officer having his head split open – must, by definition, also be considered acceptable.
They are clearly NOT!
Those that would brush off this incident saying that the officer failed to assess the risks properly should understand that the very reason most become a Police Officer is to step toward those in need of help. Expecting us to just sit in the nick or stand nearby and watch, is not realistic. That’s not what we do…
I know, all too well, the counter-argument to this situation. I know that those in control of the purse strings will say that there are times of night when having two officers ‘doing nothing’ together in the same car is unproductive. They will say that in these times of tight budgets and public non-confidence then twice the cars means twice the work and twice the visibility. From the safe side of the office table this may be true, but what it actually means is that officers spend the night following each-other around to jobs, burning twice the diesel because they all know that even the most routine call can turn into something tragic. Any job that involves a pub, a road, a domestic or a prisoner will need more than one officer to deal with it. The vast majority of what we now deal with on the response teams fall under one of these headings, so why not accept that the safety of officers is more important than saving a few quid in salaries only to spend a fair chunk of it on extra cars and fuel.
Budgets are a necessary evil in these times but, in my mind, the cost of an injured officer is far higher.